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The question

I'm in the financial industry and looking to relocate to Toronto from Montreal, both for personal and career reasons.

In my current position I manage an operations team of 10 for a large global asset manager. I've progressed very quickly up the management chain in my five years there and am easily three to five years younger then anyone of a similar rank. The problem is that I don't seem to be able to make the short lists for positions I apply for, even when they would be a rank lower than my current position. The recruitment firms that are advertising the positions tell me they are putting me forward to the client firms, but I don't seem to be getting interviews . I wonder if I should be working past the recruiting firms once I find out the employer, putting in applications with the firms directly and calling to follow up, or is that frowned upon and unproductive?

There are two issues I have wondered about that may be harming me. First, my current position is in a different city (Montreal) than the one for which I'm applying (Toronto). In my mind, the HR or hiring manager could be dismissing me because they see I'm not in the city presently. Second, I am usually applying for positions that are in operations or are closely tied with but different from what I currently do. I have many of the general characteristics they desire but have not worked that specific job. I know I can easily learn the position but I know it is easier for the hiring manager to take someone who has already done that job. I imagine its easier to justify to their boss and is less risky for them. Any suggestions?

The answer

It sounds like you are reading the tea leaves correctly with some of the current challenges in your job search. It can be frustrating to get your potential properly demonstrated by your resume, while relying on others to understand what you can bring above and beyond what your experience shows. Often, that is the reality of a job search.

You mention that you are working with recruiters. Location, location, location is not just a reality for realtors, but also for recruiters and hiring managers. Recruiters are engaged to identify, find and land "start tomorrow" skills. When recruiters are presenting your profile to their clients, they are usually presenting four to seven other short-listed candidates. Hiring managers are most likely going to look first at those who fit the "mould" in skill-set, career path, education and location. They do this for logical reasons: reducing the time to become productive; lowering the perceived risk; the additional cost of moving a new employee; and nobody wants to make a hiring mistake, particularly in the current economic climate. In addition, as employers pay recruiters a significant fee to hire through them, their demands for a fit will be much more stringent.

In my opinion, there is a very simple but not necessarily easy solution: Networking.

Let your fingers do the walking, reach out and touch someone. I am suggesting this in your situation, as your background is nonlinear. Your career path doesn't follow the typical pattern for the type of role you are targeting, combined with your current geographic location. Reaching out can get you connected to the hidden job market, it also allows you to explain your particular story and the reason behind your desired move to Toronto. Not to mention, more than 70 per cent of positions are not necessarily visible through the traditional channels.

I would recommend setting up a trip to Toronto to nurture your network in this market. Establish and connect with your university alumni association, old colleagues, relevant professional associations, LinkedIn groups (including Globe Careers) and specific recruiters. LinkedIn is a great networking tool and it is free! I would also strongly recommend attending upcoming financial industry conferences, where you can connect with a larger group of professionals.

In my previous life as an executive recruiter, I was much more likely to go to bat for a candidate in your situation if I had a chance to meet the person directly, look them in the eye and get a sense of what makes them tick. Networking allows you to connect more directly to the market. Remember: people hire people not paper.

The good news is companies constantly hire candidates who come from different geographic locations. Depending on your situation, if you can show some flexibility in relocation costs, this can be helpful as well. By your early career success, your story is strong, and I am sure you would have great references. You just need to get in front of people and connect.

For more on networking, you can listen to my podcast with a world leading expert on networking, Keith Ferrazzi, international best selling author of Never Eat Alone.

Alan Kearns is the founder and head coach of CareerJoy , and the author of The Great Canadian Job Search Kit.

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